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Feb 4, 2003 11:24 AM

Roasting a Muscovy duck

  • k

I have roasted a a duck only once, and it was a disaster - the thing basically drowned in its own fat, despite my best efforts, and the taste was nondescript; it was supermarket duck, after all, so I blamed myself only partially. I have always heard that Muscovy ducks are more like the ducks I grew up eating (in Prague), not quite so greasy and rather meaty, so now I really want to roast one.

Please advide: Do I need special equipment like one of those racks that lift the bird from the pan, or should I just remove the fat as it accumulates? And how big are those ducks on average? There's only two (big) eaters in the household.

Any other tips? Thanks...

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  1. You definitely need to roast the duck on a rack in the pan. I syphon off the fat every 30 minutes or so during roasting. The duck skin (skin only - not flesh) should be pierced all over with a skewer and it should be well salted. This way the fat will drain out. I put chunks of onion, apple or pear, garlic, lemon and any fresh herbs I have on hand inside the cavity but I syphon the liquid out of there periodically as well. I also roast potatoes and carrots in the bottom of the pan and taking most of the fat off results in tasty vegetables. BTW, save some of the fat and use it for other purposes.

    15 Replies
    1. re: christina z
      Pat Goldberg

      I have never roasted a muscovy, but if that is what makes Czech ducks so delicious, I will try it.

      I too always roast a duck on a rack. If I can and if I have the space, I get it ready the night before and put it uncovered on a rack in the refrigerator until I want to cook it. This dries out the skin and helps it to crisp as it cooks. Even a couple of hours help.

      If by any chance you have a convection oven, even a supermarket duck can be cooked to perfection - as long as it isn't one of those supermarket ducks that have been injected with a saline solution. But even without one, one can make a very credible duck.

      We also are two and always have leftovers. One of my favorite things to do with these is to use it in a Thai red curry sauce dish.

      Pat G.

      1. re: Pat Goldberg

        >I have never roasted a muscovy, but if that is what makes Czech ducks so delicious, I will try it.

        Frankly, I have no idea... duck is something my grandma always made, my mom or I never did, and there was only one kind of duck to be had in the store. I just guessed about the muscovy, because our ducks always seemed very meaty. We sprinkle the skin liberally with caraway seeds, otherwise add no seasoning other than salt...

        With red cabbage and potato dumplings... mmmmmmmmm... perfect winter meal. And a pilsner, of course.

        1. re: Katerina
          Pat Goldberg

          The red cabbage and pilsner I absolutely agree with.

          But I have never had success making potato dumplings, and the ones I have eaten out have not been particularly good. When I want to play Hausfrau, I make the kind of dumplings that are composed of fried bread croutons mixed into a soft dough (or stiff batter), rolled up in a dishtowel, and poached. I don't think they have an English name.

          Do you have a recipe for potato dumplings that you recommend? I am willing to try once more.

          Pat G.

          1. re: Pat Goldberg

            They are such a pain to make from scratch, many people including myself make them from a mix (yeah, sad but true...); and the ones you described (I think those are properly called "karlovarske knedliky", or Karlsbader Knödel) I've only had at restaurants - but they *are* good.

            But I do have an old Czech cookbook at home and will post the recipe for the tater 'plings - it's the one that my Grandma used, back when she could (she's 92 now and doesn't cook anymore)...

            I think you can get those mixes (made by Vitana) in shops in Yorkville and Greenpoint - the name is "Bramborové knedlíky" or "Bramborový knedlík" (that's plural vs. singular for you linguists). If I see it somewhere I'll post about it - it's really a decent mix, cheap too (as it should be).

            1. re: Katerina
              Pat Goldberg

              I've never been to Greenpoint and have been planning a trip there. Maybe this will get me out of my chair.

              Pat G.

        2. re: Pat Goldberg

          That Thai red curry dish sounds great, but could you explain in a little more detail.

          1. re: Beau

            Yeah, do tell!

            I wasn't exactly dreading the leftovers, but wondered about whether my fridge is big enough... but I guess if I pick the carcass and store just the meat it would be OK even with a big bird.

            1. re: Katerina
              Pat Goldberg

              Katrina, when I serve roast duck, Dick uses poultry shears to cut it up into serving-sized pieces. When the leftovers are put away, they really make a smaller package than you might at first think. As a guess, I would say no larger than a whole chicken, and probably smaller. Even if we leave half of it uncut, it still packages pretty compactly.

              But on to the Thai duck in red curry sauce. If you like Thai food, it is an easy introduction to Thai cooking. What you will need that is a bit unusual is a can of Thai coconut milk, fish sauce, and premade Thai red curry paste. There are other ingredients that are useful if you have them around, but substitutes that are easier to find will work quite well. There had been discussion of brands of red curry paste here in the past. My favorite brand comes in a biggish tub, but you will probably want to start with one of the smaller cans.

              So here goes:

              The recipe I started from calls for two cans of coconut milk. I find that one can is makes quite enough dinner for the two of us, with other ingredients scaled appropriately (I have done the scaling).

              Cocoonut milk is like unpasteurized milk - the cream rises to the top. This recipe uses the cream separately from the milk, so don't shake the can.

              In many ways, this recipe is like braising. The coconut cream will act as the fat, which is melted and aromatics are added to it. Then the meat is "browned" in this mixture, and broth (read: the rest of the coconut milk) is added, along with other seasonings and vegetables. The whole thing is then cooked for a while. Here are the details.

              Open the can of cocunut milk and spoon out the cream into a heavy bottomed pan, Heat until it boils gently. Let it boil a few minutes until you see beads of oil form on the surface, then add about a tablespoon of curry paste. I would be cautious at first - you can always put a bit more in later if the result is not spicy enough for you. Stir to dissolve this and let it cook a couple of minutes.

              Now add a cup or more of chopped duck in about two inch pieces. Stir fry it to coat it evenly with the paste, and then add the rest of the can of coconut milk.

              Add a teaspoon or two of fish sauce, the same amount of palm sugar or regular brown sugar, and three kaffir lime leaves (see below for substitutions). Add the vegetable you are using (again, see below) and simmer for another 6 -10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Adjust the sugar and fish sauce to taste.

              Like many stew type things, this is even better after a period of rest. This also gives you a chance to get some of the fat off the surface. When you are ready to serve, add three move lime leaves and some basil (horopah if you have it) and reheat. Serve with rice.

              Kaffir lime leaves: I have seen suggestions to substitute a bit of lime zest. I have never done that. I have a fairly aromatic citrus plant in our dining room and I *have* plucked leaves from that.

              Vegetables: the recipe I use calls for cherry tomatoes, but I have seen recipes that also add eggplants, others that use winter squash, and some that use pineapple instead of tomatoes. If you google appropriately, you will find lots of recipes using these. I take this to mean that you can use your own good sense on vegetables. Obviously, you will have to adjust the cooking time to the vegetable size and hardness.

              1. re: Pat Goldberg

                Can oyster sauce be substituted for fish sauce?

                1. re: Beau N.

                  If you're that way inclined, but I definitely wouldn't! The two are as different as chalk and cheese. A little belacan (sp?) probably wouldn't hurt though, for the saltiness and pungency.......

                2. re: Pat Goldberg

                  Is the Thai fish sauce roughly the same as nuoc mam sauce (Vientamese)? Kinda smelly, salty? (I love it.) Do you recommend a specific brand?

                  I don't know how I'll handle the lime leaves, but I do have some excellent if incredibly strong pure lime oil - maybe a drop or two would provide the limeyness.

                  Is the "Thai Kitchen" curry paste heinous? (It's the first I saw on the shelf, but didn't buy it - it seemed like a generic gringo brand... on the other hand, who am I kidding...)

                  1. re: Katerina
                    Pat Goldberg

                    The fish sauce is the same. The one I am currently using is translated as "squid brand." It seems fine to me, but I am no expert.

                    I have not used the Taste of Thai curry paste. Perhaps someone else can comment.

                    By all means try the lime oil. Just be cautious in its application.

                    Pat G.

                    1. re: Katerina

                      In my opinion, if you can get it there, Three Crabs, or Three Prawns (same label and maker, different nomenclature) is best. A little darker and more flavourful. My Vietnamese friends tell me it is kind of equivalent to first pressing extra virgin olive oil, by way of analogy. BTW, if you have a half decent sun room, you can grow a kaffir lime plant indoors, or at least overwinter it there......

                      1. re: Phil
                        Pat Goldberg

                        A tree grows in Brooklyn....

            2. re: christina z
              Beau Noppatee

              That's how I do mine, except that I use very large slices of onion to lift the duck off the bottom of the roasting pan, which I think is made for duck b/c it is shaped like a large bird and has vents that open and close to control the steam. I add turnips to roast with the carrots and potatoes. You should get a beautiful gravy so careful what you siphon off.

            3. christina is right on the money. I tend to cook ducks far more than I cook chickens and along with roasting them on a rack, continue piercing the skin throughout the cooking process, not just at the beginning. Also, depending on how hot your oven is, be emotionally prepared for the fact that your oven will then be splattered with grease. It ain't a clean way to prepare a duck. I also will put a variety of vegetables on the bottom as the duck fat is an amazing flavor. I, however, don't bother to siphon it off.

              1. Don't roast it.

                Muscovy ducks have considerably less fat than Pekin (Long Island, etc.) duck. They are a very different breed of duck, much more akin to the maigret you would find in Europe than the bird that oozes fat all over your oven.

                I find the best treatment is to simply cook the boneless breast meat, then use the legs in a bean stew/braise, and make a broth/stock from all the other parts.

                There are any number of good recipes for the boneless breast, but they differ mostly in the sauce. The basic technique involves scoring the skin and sub-surface fat (but not the meat), browning in an oven-proof skillet, then finishing in a hot oven. You want to serve this bird rare to medium rare. Anything beyond that will be cardboard.

                It is delectable eating!

                5 Replies
                1. re: Bob Libkind

                  I totally agree with Bob—I once roasted Muscovy ducks the same way the other posters are suggesting, and it was as dry as leather. I have had excellent success roasting whole unboned Muscovy breasts for shorter periods in a hot oven, however. Use a regular Pekin or Long Island duck for the other suggested recipes.

                  1. re: Bob Libkind

                    I totally agree with Bob—I once roasted Muscovy ducks the same way the other posters are suggesting, and it was as dry as leather. I have had excellent success roasting whole unboned Muscovy breasts for shorter periods in a hot oven, however. Use a regular Pekin or Long Island duck for the other suggested recipes.

                    1. re: Denise B

                      Well, what we call Muscovy must have variations b/c these are big, fat ducks. Much fatter and with more meat than a Long Island duck. I used to get mine from a guy that raised them and he called them Muscovy. One fed a family of four when the children were nursery school age with some left. Maybe what I think of as Long Island are ducklings. Come to think of it, that's what the packaging says. Anyway, I cover the roasting pan so that they are not dry cooked completely. The lid has vents which I open toward the end.

                    2. re: Bob Libkind

                      Thanks, very useful... but *sniff* I wanted a roast duck...

                      See, I *am* from Europe and grew up eating roast duck which, while it certainly had fat (just enough), wasn't the kind of grease monster I tried to roast here; we *never* used any kind of rack and never siphoned the grease off, and the duck was just great. It was also *meaty*. My grandma used an incredibly straightforward recipe (wash - dry - salt - sprinkle w/caraway - roast), but it failed pathetically on the (probably bad) LI duck when I tried, precisely because the duck turned out to be about 60% fat, 20% bones and 20% meat. I thought the Muscovy was what I needed.

                      But maybe I should just get with the program, get a rack and roast the LI duck the way people suggest. It won't be the same as my granny's duck, but life is change, I guess. It does sound tasty.

                      1. re: Katerina
                        Pat Goldberg

                        Katrina, the ducks I have gotten from butchers have been meatier than the supermarket ones.

                        BTW, I can usually get duck legs at Fairway, and often roast those when just the two of us are involved. They cook more quickly, do not need a rack, and are hardly more expensive per pound than whole duck.

                    3. Hello from a very new poster!
                      I raise Muscovy ducks in Nicaragua, but have yet to prepare one by roasting it whole. My favorite ways to prepare are in gumbo using the whole bird to make the broth first (which ends up having no greasy film at the top at all), cutting the meat off the duck and slicing thin to make a Latin style lasagna (tortillas, refried beans, caramelized onions and quesillo as well), and quick searing the breasts in a small amount of bacon fat then cooking for 8 minutes in a beef mushroom broth to go over broad egg noodles.

                      This weekend I will be taking all the meat off one of my smaller hens (who refuses to lay eggs), partially freezing it, adding it to some fatty hamburger meat and grinding to make meatballs....we'll see how that comes out...y'all cross your fingers for me!

                      The Muscovy must be cooked differently than any other duck, as it's not related to other ducks and the meat is totally different. The tender (if cooked right) meat has a taste more like tender beef (ie veal) than your regular ducks and there's little to no fat at all on them. Mine don't even make much pan drippings to work with without a little cheatin'.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: catahoula fan

                        Hello Catahoula! Hoping you read this and can help me out. Your lasagna recipe sounds wonderful, have made it with beef and chicken and look forward to trying it with duck; but this first time I want to cook the Muscovy without seasonings so I can get the full flavor of the bird and compare it with regular duck. I am raising both types and want to find out whether I like both or just one. This duck is a male about one year old. Is it too old to roast? I really like roast duck but maybe I should I braise it? Or cut it up and roast the breasts but stew the rest as you mentioned? Please advise!

                        If Katerina is still around, I bet your Czech ducks were home grown older birds that ran around the yard and developed flavor, not locked in a cage or coop, fed till they nearly burst, and butchered at 8 weeks, all soft and fatty and pretty tasteless.

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